For Pat Bransford, MBA and CEO of Urban Tech, it would be impossible to say that her race and gender have not been a huge part of shaping her life, not to mention her expectations. She explains, “Both race and gender have differentiated me as a gifted person with responsibilities to give back to society.
I have not seen either as an impediment but rather as a reason to give back. I integrated Catholic schools in Washington, DC at the age of eight and continued to live a multiracial life being one of the first black persons to integrate Catholic University in 1957 and one of the first black persons to be hired by IBM in 1963. I saw these experiences as opportunities to carry on a tradition. In 1965, I married my white husband whom I met at IBM, and I am the proud mother of three biracial kids."
Pat Bransford and daughter. Photo Courtesy of Glenn Tunstull
So, what is Urban Tech? Well, Bransford explains, for more than twenty years, the non-profit she founded has created intensive education curriculums that “empowers young people in urban communities with self-awareness and education on core life skills." It focuses on “empowerment through life skills and creating safer schools where students communicate with enlightenment and respect for each other and themselves" whose mission states that “with the proper educational tools provided to all children, there is no limit to learning and no obstacle that can't be overcome in pursuing dreams." It has served over a million children across forty states, and its programs have been in more than 700 schools and community-based organizations.
Pat Bransford was born in North Carolina, where her father was a dentist and a civic leader in the town and her mother home-schooled when she was young. When Bransford was seven, they moved to Washington, DC, where her mother grew up, because her mother did not feel comfortable in the deep south.
She holds a Bachelors in Mathematics from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and a Master's Degree from New York University's Stern School of Business. She's the Founder and President of The National Urban Technology Center and the author of Urban Tech's online youth development and leadership initiative, Youth Leadership Academy, “transforming the conventional classroom into a multi-disciplinary, interactive learning environment." She's also the chief architect of the Community technology center movement, “resulting in a turn-key process for building state-of-the-art computer training centers throughout the United States.
How does a kid from North Carolina end up with such enviable credentials and changing the future via tech? Right from the get-go, Bransford has always been about problem-solving. As a kid, Bransford loved living in North Carolina. “We lived on a farm and I got a chance to grow vegetables and nurture animals. Growing up, I had a few good friends who also enjoyed solving problems."
She says she was naturally drawn to technology “as a way to get information needed to make decisions quickly" because her mother was a math teacher who often employed the use of word problems as a way of engaging her in learning.
Solving important math problems and pleasing her mother were the only things Bransford knew for sure she wanted to do when she grew up. She certainly has succeeded on both counts. Her first job out of college was as a math teacher. “I loved engaging youth to be creative and build problem-solving skills." Following two years of teaching, she joined IBM and focused on the power of computers to improve corporate profitability.
Pat Bransford, Sharon Brown, Debra Chase Martin and Alicia Blythewood. Photo Courtesy of The Black Socialite
“I am now focused on using the brain to solve societal issues leading to bullying and discrimination and at-risk behavior leading to disease. I would also like to find a way to counteract the addictive behavior created by iPhones and social media - behavior that is severely impacting the development of today's children."
Which brings us to the story of Bransford's brainchild, Urban Tech. She explains how this incredible company came to be. “Out of graduate school in 1994, I set out to open computer training centers all over the country to close the digital divide. My IBM training helped me to scale quickly and within 5 years I had opened 750 centers in all 50 states and trained 2 million in low-income communities with funding from the Department of Justice, Weed, and Seed. Each center had state of the art computers, high-speed Internet connections and skilled instructors trained by Urban Tech."
The work that Urban Tech does is vital both now and moving into the future because they “are now using technology to build an e-learning platform that has the capacity to distribute Urban Tech's curriculum to classrooms all over America, in order to create a kinder society and to train the new leaders of tomorrow for promoting safe and supporting schools. We believe that these solutions will be delivered to classrooms and mobile devices for 24/7 access." Bransford says it “gives me great pleasure that I have accomplished something critical to life on this planet."In addition to all of the other work she has done and continues to do, Patricia Bransford and her daughter have also created a new bullying prevention and safety course called, “Dignity for All." The program is interactive, has digital and off-line components, provides students with workbooks and uses storytelling, role-playing, and popular culture to inspire collaborative discussions, critical reflection, and goal setting. Dignity for All helps kids to feel safe and supported in school as well as, offline.
In terms of what challenges she's faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry, Bransford says simply, “I am sure there are many but I have focused more on goals than on barriers. [Since] I integrated Catholic schools in Washington DC in 1948, everything else seems easy."
Despite everything going on in the world today, she is hopeful for our world when it comes to issues of diversity. “I believe that as each and every individual experience. Different races, religions, nationalities and sexual preferences in schools and the workplace, attitudes have changed and erased discrimination and prejudice. Housing has lagged and unfortunately has separated classes of people, but as cities emerge as engines of growth, I expect continued integration at a community/city level and the elimination of more barriers."
As for the future, Bransford says she is “eager to distribute Urban Tech's new Dignity for All curriculum that educates teachers, parents, and kids on how to prevent bullying, discrimination and other aggressive acts in schools. We'd like to see every teacher in America is trained in social and emotional learning to support safe and supportive schools."
Bransford has one vital piece of advice for women of color when it comes to turning their dreams into their realities.
“Wear this racial ethnicity as a badge of honor with a mission to make the world a better place to live."
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."